She glanced up at Simon, who was looking at her, his eyes dark with concern. His face was so familiar she could have traced its lines in her sleep. She thought of the lonely weeks that stretched ahead without him, and shoved the phone back into her bag. “Come on,” she said. “We’re going to be late for the show.”
BY THE TIME THEY GOT TO JAVA JONES, ERIC WAS ALREADY onstage, swaying back and forth in front of the microphone with his eyes squinched shut. He’d dyed the tips of his hair pink for the occasion. Behind him, Matt, looking stoned, was beating irregularly on a djembe.
“This is going to suck so hard,” Clary predicted. She grabbed Simon’s sleeve and tugged him toward the doorway. “If we make a run for it, we can still get away.”
He shook his head determinedly. “I’m nothing if not a man of my word.” He squared his shoulders. “I’ll get the coffee if you find us a seat. What do you want?”
“Just coffee. Black—like my soul.”
Simon headed off toward the coffee bar, muttering under his breath something to the effect that it was a far, far better thing he did now than he had ever done before. Clary went to find them a seat.
The coffee shop was crowded for a Monday; most of the threadbare-looking couches and armchairs were taken up with teenagers enjoying a free weeknight. The smell of coffee and clove cigarettes was overwhelming. Finally Clary found an unoccupied love seat in a darkened corner toward the back. The only other person nearby was a blond girl in an orange tank top, absorbed in playing with her iPod. Good, Clary thought, Eric won’t be able to find us back here after the show to ask how his poetry was.
The blond girl leaned over the side of her chair and tapped Clary on the shoulder. “Excuse me.” Clary looked up in surprise. “Is that your boyfriend?” the girl asked.
Clary followed the line of the girl’s gaze, already prepared to say, No, I don’t know him, when she realized the girl meant Simon. He was headed toward them, face scrunched up in concentration as he tried not to drop either of his Styrofoam cups. “Uh, no,” Clary said. “He’s a friend of mine.”
The girl beamed. “He’s cute. Does he have a girlfriend?”
Clary hesitated a second too long before replying. “No.”
The girl looked suspicious. “Is he gay?”
Clary was spared responding to this by Simon’s return. The blond girl sat back hastily as he set the cups on the table and threw himself down next to Clary. “I hate it when they run out of mugs. Those things are hot.” He blew on his fingers and scowled. Clary tried to hide a smile as she watched him. Normally she never thought about whether Simon was good-looking or not. He had pretty dark eyes, she supposed, and he’d filled out well over the past year or so. With the right haircut—
“You’re staring at me,” Simon said. “Why are you staring at me? Have I got something on my face?”
I should tell him, she thought, though some part of her was strangely reluctant. I’d be a bad friend if I didn’t. “Don’t look now, but that blond girl over there thinks you’re cute,” she whispered.
Simon’s eyes flicked sideways to stare at the girl, who was industriously studying an issue of Shonen Jump. “The girl in the orange top?” Clary nodded. Simon looked dubious. “What makes you think so?”
Tell him. Go on, tell him. Clary opened her mouth to reply, and was interrupted by a burst of feedback. She winced and covered her ears as Eric, onstage, wrestled with his microphone.
“Sorry about that, guys!” he yelled. “All right. I’m Eric, and this is my homeboy Matt on the drums. My first poem is called ‘Untitled.’” He screwed up his face as if in pain, and wailed into the mike. “‘Come, my faux juggernaut, my nefarious loins! Slather every protuberance with arid zeal!’”
Simon slid down in his seat. “Please don’t tell anyone I know him.”
Clary giggled. “Who uses the word ‘loins’?”
“Eric,” Simon said grimly. “All his poems have loins in them.”
“‘Turgid is my torment!’” Eric wailed. “‘Agony swells within!’”
“You bet it does,” Clary said. She slid down in the seat next to Simon. “Anyway, about that girl who thinks you’re cute—”
“Never mind that for a second,” Simon said. Clary blinked at him in surprise. “There’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Furious Mole is not a good name for a band,” Clary said immediately.
“Not that,” Simon said. “It’s about what we were talking about before. About me not having a girlfriend.”
“Oh.” Clary lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Oh, I don’t know. Ask Jaida Jones out,” she suggested, naming one of the few girls at St. Xavier’s she actually liked. “She’s nice, and she likes you.”
“I don’t want to ask Jaida Jones out.”
“Why not?” Clary found herself seized with a sudden, unspecific resentment. “You don’t like smart girls? Still seeking a rockin’ bod?”
“Neither,” said Simon, who seemed agitated. “I don’t want to ask her out because it wouldn’t really be fair to her if I did….”
He trailed off. Clary leaned forward. From the corner of her eye she could see the blond girl leaning forward too, plainly eavesdropping. “Why not?”
“Because I like someone else,” Simon said.
“Okay.” Simon looked faintly greenish, the way he had once when he’d broken his ankle playing soccer in the park and had had to limp home on it. She wondered what on earth about liking someone could possibly have him wound up to such a pitch of anxiety. “You’re not gay, are you?”
Simon’s greenish color deepened. “If I were, I would dress better.”
“So, who is it, then?” Clary asked. She was about to add that if he were in love with Sheila Barbarino, Eric would kick his ass, when she heard someone cough loudly behind her. It was a derisive sort of cough, the kind of noise someone might make who was trying not to laugh out loud.
Sitting on a faded green sofa a few feet away from her was Jace. He was wearing the same dark clothes he’d had on the night before in the club. His arms were bare and covered with faint white lines like old scars. His wrists bore wide metal cuffs; she could see the bone handle of a knife protruding from the left one. He was looking right at her, the side of his narrow mouth quirked in amusement. Worse than the feeling of being laughed at was Clary’s absolute conviction that he hadn’t been sitting there five minutes ago.
“What is it?” Simon had followed her gaze, but it was obvious from the blank expression on his face that he couldn’t see Jace.
But I see you. She stared at Jace as she thought it, and he raised his left hand to wave at her. A ring glittered on a slim finger. He got to his feet and began walking, unhurriedly, toward the door. Clary’s lips parted in surprise. He was leaving, just like that.
She felt Simon’s hand on her arm. He was saying her name, asking her if something was wrong. She barely heard him. “I’ll be right back,” she heard herself say, as she sprang off the couch, almost forgetting to set her coffee cup down. She raced toward the door, leaving Simon staring after her.
Clary burst through the doors, terrified that Jace would have vanished into the alley shadows like a ghost. But he was there, slouched against the wall. He had just taken something out of his pocket and was punching buttons on it. He looked up in surprise as the door of the coffee shop fell shut behind her.
In the rapidly falling twilight, his hair looked coppery gold. “Your friend’s poetry is terrible,” he said.
Clary blinked, caught momentarily off guard. “What?”
“I said his poetry was terrible. It sounds like he ate a dictionary and started vomiting up words at random.”
“I don’t care about Eric’s poetry.” Clary was furious. “I want to know why you’re following me.”
“Who said I was following you?”
“Nice try. And you were eavesdropping, too. Do you want to tell me what this is about, or should I just call the police?”
“And tell them what?” Jace said witheringly. “That invisible people are bothering you? Trust me, little girl, the police aren’t going to arrest someone they can’t see.”
“I told you before, my name is not ‘little girl,’” she said through her teeth. “It’s Clary.”
“I know,” he said. “Pretty name. Like the herb, clary sage. In the old days people thought eating the seeds would let you see the Fair Folk. Did you know that?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You don’t know much, do you?” he said. There was a lazy contempt in his gold eyes. “You seem to be a mundane like any other mundane, yet you can see me. It’s a conundrum.”
“Someone of the human world. Someone like you.”
“But you’re human,” Clary said.
“I am,” he said. “But I’m not like you.” There was no defensiveness in his tone. He sounded like he didn’t care if she believed him or not.
“You think you’re better. That’s why you were laughing at us.”
“I was laughing at you because declarations of love amuse me, especially when unrequited,” he said. “And because your Simon is one of the most mundane mundanes I’ve ever encountered. And because Hodge thought you might be dangerous, but if you are, you certainly don’t know it.”
“I’m dangerous?” Clary echoed in astonishment. “I saw you kill someone last night. I saw you drive a knife up under his ribs, and—” And I saw him slash at you with fingers like razor blades. I saw you cut and bleeding, and now you look as if nothing ever touched you.
“I may be a killer,” Jace said, “but I know what I am. Can you say the same?”
“I’m an ordinary human being, just like you said. Who’s Hodge?”
“My tutor. And I wouldn’t be so quick to brand myself as ordinary, if I were you.” He leaned forward. “Let me see your right hand.”
“My right hand?” Clary echoed. He nodded. “If I show you my hand, will you leave me alone?”
“Certainly.” His voice was edged with amusement.
She held out her right hand grudgingly. It looked pale in the half-light spilling from the windows, the knuckles dotted with a light dusting of freckles. Somehow she felt as exposed as if she were pulling up her shirt and showing him her naked chest. He took her hand in his and turned it over. “Nothing.” He sounded almost disappointed. “You’re not left-handed, are you?”
He released her hand with a shrug. “Most Shadowhunter children get Marked on their right hands—or left, if they’re left-handed like I am—when they’re still young. It’s a permanent rune that lends an extra skill with weapons.” He showed her the back of his left hand; it looked perfectly normal to her.
“I don’t see anything,” she said.
“Let your mind relax,” he suggested. “Wait for it to come to you. Like waiting for something to rise to the surface of water.”
“You’re crazy.” But she relaxed, gazing at his hand, seeing the tiny lines across the knuckles, the long joints of the fingers—
It jumped out at her suddenly, flashing like a DON’T WALK sign. A black design like an eye across the back of his hand. She blinked, and it vanished. “A tattoo?”
He smiled smugly and lowered his hand. “I thought you could do it. And it’s not a tattoo—it’s a Mark. They’re runes, burned into our skin.”
“They make you handle weapons better?” Clary found this hard to believe, though perhaps no more hard to believe than the existence of zombies.
“Different Marks do different things. Some are permanent but the majority vanish when they’ve been used.”
“That’s why your arms aren’t all inked up today?” she asked. “Even when I concentrate?”
“That’s exactly why.” He sounded pleased with himself. “I knew you had the Sight, at least.” He glanced up at the sky. “It’s nearly full dark. We should go.”
“We? I thought you were going to leave me alone.”
“I lied,” Jace said without a shred of embarrassment. “Hodge said I have to bring you to the Institute with me. He wants to talk to you.”
“Why would he want to talk to me?”
“Because you know the truth now,” Jace said. “There hasn’t been a mundane who knew about us for at least a hundred years.”
“About us?” she echoed. “You mean people like you. People who believe in demons.”
“People who kill them,” said Jace. “We’re called Shadowhunters. At least, that’s what we call ourselves. The Downworlders have less complimentary names for us.”
“The Night Children. Warlocks. The fey. The magical folk of this dimension.”
Clary shook her head. “Don’t stop there. I suppose there are also, what, vampires and werewolves and zombies?”
“Of course there are,” Jace informed her. “Although you mostly find zombies farther south, where the voudun priests are.”
“What about mummies? Do they only hang around Egypt?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. No one believes in mummies.”
“Of course not,” Jace said. “Look, Hodge will explain all this to you when you see him.”